Look Inside: Not of this Worldview

Added about 4 weeks ago by Richard S. Briggs

Enjoy a sneak peek inside Not of This Worldview: Poetry for the Kingdom Among Us by Richard S. Briggs

In poems that range from loose informality to tight structure, and from the humorous to the sombre, Richard Briggs seeks to let poetry open our eyes and ears to the strange and elusive work of God among us. He seeks out a voice that will let us celebrate the everyday, rejoice in the remarkable, and at the same time will enable us to weep with those who weep. He writes with gentle humour of his own path from zeal towards wisdom, and encourages us to follow.

Life is a gift, and Not of This Worldview offers a response to accompany us wherever we are in the ups and downs of that life—from the mountain top to the pit, as the Psalmists once said, and at all locations in between.

The Promise of Life: Four Vows and a Funeral

Born and baptized
I knew nothing about it
It marked me for life
I would not be without it

Married and joined
In covenant loving
Marks me for joy
Trusted and trusting

Later confirmed
Kneeling for blessing
Marking me out as a
Pilgrim confessing

Called and ordained
Deacon and priest
Marks me for service
Burdens released

These are the days
When “yes” has been “yes”
Marking me ready for
God’s faithfulness

One more to come
The promised “Amen”
Marked out in death
For new life again

Portrait of the Zealot as an Old Man: An Autobiography

Happy in my childhood
Peaceful when a teen
The long slow arc of a very British life
Was rudely interrupted at the age of nineteen

The road to Damascus
Was Uni for me
The blinding light of a sudden conversion
Birthed into certainty, sure as can be

Now I knew everything
Didn’t I know it
The sudden zeal of a very fresh convert
Prophet and preacher, but not yet a poet

Jesus didn’t come back
That year or the next
The gentler speeds of a long-distance life
Learning to slow down and ponder the text

It’s strange now to recall
Cries for revival
The shallow depths of a prayer-light faith
The zeal for a largely unread Bible

Somewhere in my thirties
God called in his debts
The longer reach of a grace-filled nature
Catching me up in the kindest of nets

I wish I could say that
I took to the climb
The rising path of a long walk to freedom
Took time, takes time, will always take time

Slowly and yet surely
Learning all about
The growing grasp of a God of compassion
The candle flickers but never goes out

Learning to be grateful
Even for the zeal
The gain and loss of a life of hindsight:
Accept the turning of the wheelI

would not be here now
Without the kick-start
The precious gift of a transformed life
The abiding love that captures the heart

And I am not there now
Where it all began
The storied life of a faithful learner
Confession of a zealot as an older man

Assistant Worship Leader Seeks Meaningful Relationship

Lover

I read the books on purity and passion
I sing the soaring solo every Sunday
I pray in muttered tongues up on the platform
I stack the shelves at Tesco’s every Monday

With one hand in the air
I can strike the perfect pose
But will I find the perfect match?
Heaven knows.

“Assistant worship leader
Seeks meaningful relationship
Must be a singer and a
Calvinist preferred
Likes to travel overseas and
Likes to meet new faces
And loves to spend time
In the Word.”

Beloved

Lord I believe in the power of praise
I bless the one who raises up the meek
I balance poise and passion in the chorus
I stack the shelves at Tesco’s every week

With lips that kiss the microphone
I strike the perfect pose
But will I find the one for me?
Heaven knows.

“Assistant worship leader
Seeks meaningful relationship
Somebody to share with on
The bad days and the good
Knows ‘The Seven Keys to
A Deeper Walk With Jesus’
Would like to find someone
Who understood.”

Unexpected Interviews with Holy Men

I missed my real calling as a rock star
And drifted into teaching in the East
Had eleven years of doing TESOL
Headed home and trained to be a priest.

I used to be a lawyer down in London
And worked for trafficked victims in my time
Now I run a church plant, inner-city
And am grateful for experience of crime.

Twenty-seven years I was a doctor
Bandaging the hurt in A&E
I wanted to do more than heal the body
Though now it’s hard to see the enemy.

Stories flow on deep and rich and thicker—
“What the vicar did” before being vicar.

My Life as the Search for the Perfect Book

It started long ago with
Snow! by Dr Seuss
It had to be the best!
The best ever!
Though was not the funniest
That was The Puffin Joke Book
Which wore thin on the ears of my family
Who were doubtless pleased
When I hid myself away to devour
Dr Who and the Planet of the Daleks
Over a hundred pages of unputdownable action
Undetained by character development.
The NME Encyclopaedia of Rock’n’Roll
Became a trusted friend through teenage years
And then I discovered, one day, out of the blue
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
And all my understanding of language
Was stopp’d, as it were. So then,
The life of a playwright for me. Though
While I waited for that to unfold
I went hitch-hiking through Douglas Adams’
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Which was—in its awkwardly strange way –
All about me, as I went to a college a little
Like the one in the book. Though
Not much like it, on reflection.
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations
Was left conspicuously beside the bed
In my student room, until a friend
Who actually had read a book or two
Pointed me to literature –
Vast untrodden and unsuspected field
Who gets to play here? To live and work here?
What Maisie Knew and Heart of Darkness
T. S. Eliot, like every student before or since,
War and Peace (though in due time I would find
The French Manga version more comprehensible,
no, really)
And also The British Museum is Falling Down
Which was certainly about me,
Though again, not that much, on reflection.

These latter years have been as full of candidates
As all my book-filled former years had been.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was magic, while
Black Swan Green actually was about me, really.
Clive James spun webs around the world
With Cultural Amnesia. And then
I finally tackled Infinite Jest, and was won over by,
And hopelessly lost within,
The world according to David Foster Wallace,
At last finding a book that was not about me
But that spoke in tune—though not in harmony—
With all manner of musing
In my mind’s eye.

Meanwhile . . .

Along had come children
And reading at bedtime stopped being
The long, slow trek through The Corrections
And became instead the collected adventures of
Preston Pig. Or indeed, to complete the tale,
Of Dr Seuss, asking always
“I want to know—do you like snow?”
Again! Again!
Giggle, wriggle
Snuggle under covers
Turn out the light.

Good night.

 


 

Richard S. Briggs teaches the Old Testament at Cranmer Hall in St John’s College in Durham and is the Prior of the Community of St Cuthbert based at St Nic’s Church in Durham marketplace. If you’ve enjoyed this extract you can buy your own copy of Not of This Worldview here.


Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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